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Iain Henderson appointed Ulster captain as lock predicts 'exciting' season ahead for the province

Listening brief: Iain Henderson with Ulster boss Dan McFarland
Listening brief: Iain Henderson with Ulster boss Dan McFarland

Iain Henderson has been named as Ulster captain for the 19/20 season.

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The 27-year-old, who is currently in Ireland’s training squad ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019, has previously captained Ulster in Rory Best's absence, most recently in April's victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

He is one of seven players in the Ulster panel with over 100 caps, having played for the province 105 times.

With 44 Ireland caps, Henderson is the second most experienced international player in Ulster's squad (after incoming prop Jack McGrath) and also has the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour to look back on.

Henderson has further demonstrated his leadership skills when calling the line-out for Ireland, with whom he has won three six Nations titles, including the 2018 Grand Slam. In fact, those qualities were called out by both Bryn Cunningham and David Nucifora when he penned his new contract, stretching until 2021, last year.

“I’m incredibly proud and excited to be appointed as club captain," he said. "I had a good chat with Dan (McFarland - head coach) and I think we’re closely aligned in terms of how we see Ulster moving forward.

“I’ve got massive boots to fill with Rory (Best) outgoing, but it’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to.

“When I’ve captained Ulster on previous occasions, it’s been made a lot easier because of the presence of a number of great leaders around me.

"It really helps when you’ve got people like Al (O’Connor), Rob (Herring) and Marcell (Coetzee) behind you, who understand what you’re doing and provide unbelievable support.

“Our squad has a very low age profile and one of the most exciting things for me is seeing the hunger within the group and the players’ desire to improve. We also have the likes of Jack (McGrath), Sam (Carter) and Matt (Faddes) coming in, who will add significant additional experience, so I think we’ve got a lot to be excited about going into the new season.”

Henderson started his rugby journey at Academy RFC, before continuing his development at Belfast Royal Academy.

His talent was further nurtured in the Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy and he played club rugby for Queen’s University RFC and Ballynahinch RFC.

The versatile forward represented Ulster and Ireland at various age grade levels on route to making his senior provincial debut in April 2012, against Connacht.

Ulster Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said: “Iain has a deep love for his Province. He understands exactly what it means to wear the Ulster jersey and this rubs off on those around him.

“As a leader, he has demonstrated his ability to command respect through his professionalism and talismanic play. Asking Iain to be captain was not a difficult decision and because he is surrounded by a squad of good men, I know that he will flourish.”

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